- Record first quarter in 2003 bucks industry downward trend
- Four consecutive years of profitable growth
(SEOUL) May 12, 2003 - When Kia Motors was taken over by Hyundai in 1998, speculation was rife that this would be the death knell for both companies.
"Critics have good reason to worry about a Hyundai [takeover]," said The Economist magazine in an article on October 22, 1998, adding that the dominance of the Hyundai Group in Korea would "blunt its incentive to improve productivity."
Five years later, those critics are a lot less worried. Kia Motors reported first quarter sales of 260,789 vehicles in 2003 - a 21% increase over 2002 which was itself a record year.
In Europe, first quarter sales increased by 50.3% over the pervious year, the fastest rate of growth of any manufacturer in Europe.
In March alone, European sales were up 66.7%. Growth was more sedate in the United States, with first quarter results showing a 3.8% increase over 2002.
Indeed, since the 1998 takeover, Kia has never faltered, recording four straight years of profitable growth despite declining sales throughout the automotive industry. And with each line worker producing 35 cars per year, Kia is also one of the most productive manufacturers in the industry.
"Kia produces great cars at prices that people can afford," says COO Yong-Hwan Kim, head of Kia`s international business division. "Cars like the Sorento SUV and the Carnival MPV are redefining the concept of value in their segments."
The Sorento, introduced last year, has been a runaway success, generating positive media and consumer reports around the world. Indeed, so popular is the car that it became Kia`s top global seller within a year of its launch.
The Carnival`s success has been quieter but no less impressive. The first Kia to win a blanket five star safety rating in the U.S., the Carnival has proceeded to win awards for quality and value around the world. Indeed, until it was overtaken by the Sorento this year, the big MPV was Kia`s number one in terms of global sales.
"The Kia lineup has never been stronger," says Mr. Kim. "We`ve come a long way from the days when our principle export was the Pride mini-car. Today we have an exceptionally competitive, well equipped vehicle in almost every segment in the market."
The latest addition to the lineup, the Opirus, takes that philosophy into the near-luxury segment, with a list of features that firmly establishes Kia`s capacity to produce high-quality cars.
The retirement of the Pride left a gap in the Kia lineup in the A-segment, a gap that will be filled when Korea`s second largest automaker unveils a new mini-car at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. That will be one of sixteen vehicles that the company plans to launch in the next five years.
In 2004, Kia Motors will celebrate its 60th anniversary, traditionally the age at which Koreans consider their life`s accomplishments to be complete. Kia, however, is not content to rest on what must be one of the greatest turnaround stories in the market today. With an ambitious goal of becoming one of the world`s top five automakers by the end of the decade, Kia plans to become stronger and more competitive.
"We`ve made a great deal of progress, but there`s still work to be done," says Mr. Kim. "We are making significant improvements in quality and styling to produce cars that people really want to own. But we`ve really only just got started. Kia`s going to surprise a lot of people over the next few years."
Founded in 1944, Kia Motors Corporation (www.kia.co.kr) is Korea`s oldest manufacturer of automobiles. A part of the Hyundai Automobile Group, the company currently sells more than one million vehicles per year worldwide and maintains a network of distributors that covers 190 countries. Kia Motors is the major sponsor of the Australian Tennis Open and the international sponsor of the Davis Cup for the Euro/Africa zone.